Craig Steinberg captured his second consecutive Southern California Golf Assn. Amateur Championship, but for a moment Sunday it appeared he might be spared the trouble of winning it on the course.
Steinberg, a law student at the University of La Verne, led Bob Clark by a stroke entering the 18th hole at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, but he bogeyed and Clark parred to set up a playoff. Or did it?
State amateur champion Todd Demsey, who finished third, two strokes behind Clark and Steinberg, claimed that Clark's putt for double bogey on the 10th hole was knocked in while it was moving. Pat Duncan, who finished fifth after shooting a final-round 79, backed up Demsey when he took his claim to the rules committee.
But when Clark was asked by tournament officials if he had hit a moving ball, he said he had not. If Clark indeed had hit a moving target, he would have penalized a stroke.
So on to sudden death and the par-four first hole.
After both players drove in the fairway, Steinberg nailed hit an eight-iron 12 feet above the hole and Clark pulled his iron left of the green and 50 feet from the pin on the short rough. Clark slid his chip just inches by the cup, but it didn't matter when Steinberg dropped his putt in the bottom of the cup. For the second consecutive year, Steinberg rallied on the final day to Clark by a stroke.
"Just one short," said Clark, a former NCAA champion who is still looking for his first SCGA victory. "I was getting pretty tense.
". . . This is going to make me tougher next year. You knock on the door in this game. When the golfing gods want to let me in, they will."
They've decided to allow Steinberg in three times in the last five years and let him become the first repeat champion since Brad Greer in 1984 and 1985.
Steinberg made up four strokes in the final 12 holes.
The turning point might have come on 17 with the two tied at three-under. Clark appeared ready to birdie the hole when his approach landed seven feet away and Steinberg's 25 feet below the cup. But Steinberg sank his longest putt of the day while Clark slid his putt right.